Gais GPS, AllTrails, MapMyHike and Other Apps Make Navigating Easier

Gais GPS, AllTrails, MapMyHike and Other Apps Make Navigating Easier


Companion Apps for Your Hike

When you take off for a hike, make sure you go prepared, particularly for longer treks. And don’t forget your phone—and one or two of these apt mobile apps.

Stay On Track: Gaia GPS was founded in Berkeley by Andrew and Anna Johnson, a husband-and-wife team whose love of outdoor exploring once left them briefly lost in Tahoe’s backcountry. They built Gaia GPS so that they and other adventurers could easily see their location on a map. One of the great features of this app—and what makes it stand out from many of the other hiking apps available—is the ability to view maps and access GPS offline. So when you’re out in the wild with no phone service, you can still stay on track. Even six years later, Gaia GPS’s developers are themselves long-distance and casual hikers. The Johnsons love to hike in Redwood Regional Park and around Lake Anza with their dogs.Find Any Trail: AllTrails (Android, iOS) uses your phone’s GPS to populate trails closest to you. The app has 50,000 trail guides for the United States and Canada, with routes available for about 5,000 trails. You can read and write trail reviews, share trails with friends, and download trail maps so that you can access them without a network connection.

Record Your Route: MapMyHike (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is an app that builds organically, using user-generated routes. You can see which walks or hikes are near your current location, choose a trek based on distance and gain, and then follow a map of the route. But the main purpose is to record your own routes, including distance, elevation, and calories burned. An upgrade ($29.99 per year) adds Live Tracking, which lets you share your real-time location with family and friends—invaluable if you often hike alone.

Discover National Parks: Heading to one of our country’s many beautiful national parks? Not all of them have paper maps in stock, so it’s a good idea to have a digital version on hand. For Android, National Park Maps is a good free app with downloadable maps, an important detail since cell service is spotty in many parks. Although many of the maps are available for free as well, some will cost you a dollar or two. Each one includes trail maps, POIs, lodging, camping locations, and general park info.

For iOS users, there’s National Parks by National Geographic, a beautifully designed app that’s easy to use and offers guides on the 25 most popular national parks. Each guide includes maps along with photos, tips on park secrets, and advice on what to see and do, making them a bit interactive, a nice touch.

Plan For Your Trek: If you’re headed on a longer hike or backpacking trip, making a list of necessary supplies is good preparation. Save some time with Hiking Planner (Android) or Hiking Checklist (iOS). The apps (which are by the same developer) come with pre-loaded items geared for hiking trips, such as backpack gear, clothes, food/snacks and a first-aid kit. There are also camping specific lists in the event your hike is a multiday affair.

Explore Locally: While it’s not an app, Jane Huber’s Bay Area Hiker website,, is a resource for anyone who wants to discover new trails around the bay. She has recorded everything from flat strolls of less than a mile to rugged daylong treks.

—Jasmine France